Between its breathtaking coastal landscapes and vibrant cities, the state of Massachusetts has inspired many musicians. While the Bay State is home to some of them, others sing about discovering the city of Boston or the cold New England winters.
Whichever camp you fall into, here are the best songs about Massachusetts ever.
“Massachusetts” by the Bee Gees
Song Year: 1968
This ode to Massachusetts topped the charts in 12 countries, including the UK. The Bee Gees had never visited Massachusetts when they wrote this hit.
The song is an answer to popular flower-power songs of the ‘60s like Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco.” These songs often associate the ‘60s hippie movement with the West Coast, and the Bee Gees wanted to write a song from the perspective of a youth who goes West and ends up missing home.
“Boston” by Kenny Chesney
Song Year: 2004
“Boston” is a country song by Kenny Chesney. The song tells the story of a woman who left Boston to go live on a tropical island.
The lyrics create a contrast between the cold New England climate and the warm and sunny place this character has found. Despite leaving everything behind, this woman still clings to her past and talks about her hometown.
“I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys
Song Year: 2005
The Dropkick Murphys are arguably the most famous band from Massachusetts. This unique punk band comes from Quincy, MA.
With “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” the band celebrates the city’s Irish heritage and references Boston’s history as a port.
The lyrics about a sailor looking for his lost peg leg are fun and nonsensical, but the mix of traditional Irish music and modern punk rock feels representative of the Boston music scene.
“Boston” by Augustana
Song Year: 2005
“Boston” is a beautiful slow piano song from the rock band Augustana. There is a deeply personal story behind the lyrics since frontman Daniel Layus came up with the title after a close friend moved from California to Boston.
To Layus, Boston felt like the furthest place possible and sounded like the perfect city to start over. The idea of starting over also evokes the rich history of Boston as a destination for immigrants.
“The Boston Rag” by Steely Dan
Song Year: 1973
“The Boston Rag” is a unique song from Steely Dan with a jazzy feel and a memorable guitar solo. The song uses the same structure as a classic ragtime track, a popular genre used in jazz music.
The lyrics tell a story about living in Boston and dealing with difficult situations. The song seems to tell the story of a friend who overdosed, but the song feels cryptic and remains open to interpretation.
“Roadrunner” by the Modern Lovers
Song Year: 1972
This fun rock song talks about being in love with Massachusetts. It creates precise images by describing neon lights in the winter or driving on the highway with the radio on.
Composer Jonathan Richman revealed the song is about Route 128, which runs along the coast.
“Boston” by the Byrds
Song Year: 1969
“Boston” wasn’t a hit for the Byrds, but the song feels representative of the band’s style. The upbeat bubblegum pop melody evokes the Beatles and other bands from the British invasion.
The lyrics are about the innocent kind of love that was popular in pop music throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s. The singer has a girlfriend in Boston, MA, and sings about his plans to see her.
“Massachusetts” by Aaron Lewis
Song Year: 2011
“Massachusetts” is a beautiful country song that will make you miss home. In this nostalgic tune, Aaron Lewis sings about being away from his family in Massachusetts.
The lyrics talk about his wife and children, but he also evokes growing up in Massachusetts and refers to his friends and favorite teachers.
It’s a heartfelt song that feels like a sincere love letter to the Bay State.
“Whoever’s in New England” by Reba McEntire
Song Year: 1986
“Whoever’s in New England” is one of the most recognizable songs about Massachusetts. This hit also resulted in a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for Reba McEntire.
This emotional song is about a man who goes to Boston regularly on business. The singer suspects he is cheating on her with someone in New England.
The song has a positive message since the singer hopes this man will eventually return to her.
“Old Cape Cod” by Patti Page
Song Year: 1960
“Old Cape Cod” is a unique song that mimics the emotional and orchestral feel of a classic love song, but Patti Page is singing about falling in love with the Cape Cod peninsula.
It’s one of the most iconic songs about Massachusetts, referencing everything that makes the Bay State a popular tourist destination, including the small towns, beaches, and seafood. Patti Page had never visited the area before recording the song and seeing Cape Cod in person made her realize how meaningful the song truly was.
“Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor
Song Year: 1970
“Sweet Baby James” comes from James Taylor’s second album. This song wasn’t as popular as the hit “Fire and Rain,” but it’s a memorable tune with Taylor’s signature guitar style slowed down to resemble a waltz.
The song is about his nephew James. The lyrics describe the family’s life in Boston and evoke the cold New England winters.
“Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie
Song Year: 1967
“Alice’s Restaurant” is a blues song that tells a memorable story inspired by real events. The story begins at a restaurant in Stockbridge, MA, where Arlo Guthrie is enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner and ends up with the singer becoming ineligible for the military draft.
It’s a memorable song against the Vietnam War despite its humorous tone.
“M.T.A.” by the Kingston Trio
Song Year: 1959
“M.T.A.” is a satirical song about the Massachusetts Transportation Authority increasing the subway fare in Boston. The song tells the tragic story of a man who never came home because he didn’t have enough change to get off the train.
It’s a fun novelty song, but it’s memorable because of the serious tone of the introduction that tricks listeners into thinking the lyrics will be about a real-life tragedy.
“Dirty Water” by the Standells
Song Year: 1966
“Dirty Water” refers to the River Charles that flows through Boston. This classic ‘60s song describes life in Boston, including crime and factory work.
However, the tone remains positive thanks to the upbeat tempo of the song and the singer’s repeated love for the city of Boston.
“Please Come to Boston” by Dave Loggins
Song Year: 1974
“Please Come to Boston” is a beautiful pop and folk song that earned Dave Loggins a Grammy Award. The ballad is about the singer asking a girl to follow him around the country. He asks her to come to Boston and stay there with him for a while.
The girl answers that the singer should come back home to Tennessee and settle down.
“Miss Massachusetts” by Tori Amos
Song Year: 2007
“Miss Massachusetts” is a song that Tori Amos improvised during a concert in Boston. It’s a humorous song about an encounter between Miss Massachusetts and Donald Trump.
The song is a fun tune that showcases Tori Amos’ talent when it comes to writing original lyrics.
“Maryland, Massachusetts” by Nelly
Song Year: 2013
“Maryland, Massachusetts” is an upbeat RnB song from Nelly. The rapper repeats the name of two states in the hook, which is a possible reference to drugs since the states’ abbreviations come together to form the acronym MDMA.
“Massachusetts” by the Andrew Sisters
Song year: 1942
“Massachusetts” is a classic song featuring the Andrew Sisters’ signature harmony. The song is about missing Massachusetts and wanting to come home to New England.
The lyrics also make fun of the New England accents by highlighting how the pronunciation of some words is different.
“Roulette” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Song Year: 2022
This recent track from the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a bittersweet song that looks back on a relationship. The lyrics have multiple references to music from the ‘70s and ‘80s and suggest this love story took place back in college.
The singer compares his ex-girlfriend to a ‘Massachusetts threat,’ which might be a catchy rhyme or a reference to them attending college in Massachusetts.
“Small Town” by Nappy Roots
Song Year: 2008
“Small Town” is a rap song that celebrates life in a small town and talks about wanting to get away from a busy city. The chorus refers to Massachusetts and West Virginia, two places the group associates with the countryside.
“This Is the Life” by Angie Miller
Song Year: 2014
This fun indie rock song describes life for a group of youth in Massachusetts. The lyrics echo popular party anthems from the 2010s but transpose the lyrics to the setting of a small town.
Angie Miller creates some striking images that anyone who grew up in a small town can relate to, such as listening to music in parking lots and dreaming of life somewhere else.
“Millworker” by James Taylor
Song Year: 1979
“Millworker” is a song written for the musical Working. It tells the story of a woman who married a millworker from Massachusetts.
Unfortunately, the man died due to alcoholism, and the woman had to take up millwork to support her children. The song shares a strong message about the dehumanization of factory work and the financial hardships single mothers often face.
“American Girl” by LL Cool J
Song Year: 2008
“American Girl” is one of the best rap songs about Massachusetts. It’s an upbeat tune that celebrates American women and mentions different states.
The lyrics create a humorous juxtaposition between American women and the history of the country. LL Cool J references the colonies and Revolutionary War to suggest that historical figures would have appreciated modern American women.
“Fried Hockey Boogie” by Canned Heat
Song Year: 1968
“Fried Hockey Boogie” is a fun experimental track where Canned Heat introduces its members while demonstrating their ability to play an upbeat blues and rock tune.
As the song introduces each band member, we learn their nicknames and where they’re from. The first one, the Blind Owl, is from Boston, MA.
This track is a fun way to celebrate the band members, and it shows how Canned Heat includes members from around the country.
“Dogtown” by Harry Chapin
Song Year: 1972
“Dogtown” is a powerful mix of folk and pop. The song tells the story of a small town in Massachusetts.
The men of the town work as fishermen and leave for months at a time. The women who stay behind call the town Dogtown to reflect their unhappiness.
The title comes from a small village called Dogtown in the Cape Ann area. The village is now abandoned.
“U-Mass” by the Pixies
Song Year: 1991
The Pixies are one of the most famous bands from Boston. Singer Black Francis and guitar player Joey Santiago initially met while attending the University of Massachusetts.
“U-Mass” is a fun and irreverent song that looks back on their college days. The song mentions them partying together but also describes them as idealistic youths.
“Problematic” by Bo Burnham
Song Year: 2021
“Problematic” is a humorous song where comedian Bo Burnham looks back on his background. He describes growing up in a primarily Caucasian area in Massachusetts and talks about getting into comedy.
The main topic of the song is the issue of cultural appropriation. It’s lighthearted, but it asks some interesting questions about growing up in an environment that lacks diversity.
Top Songs About Virginia, Final Thoughts
The songs about Massachusetts celebrate the Bay State, evoke nostalgia, or describe New England as a place that feels unfamiliar. It’s interesting to see how Massachusetts has a different meaning for every artist.
We hope you enjoyed these songs about Massachusetts and discovered some new bands or found some old classics you had forgotten.